This is the second time I’ve gone to see a movie at the Manor Theater and left crying. That deep, painful weeping, the kind that shakes you, that is soundless because there are no corresponding words to describe the internal experience. I went to see Brooklyn, an innocent chick flick, hoping for some entertainment. The movie is about an Irish immigrant named Eilis who comes to the United States and slowly finds her way, including love. What happened to me as I watched is a testament to the power of story. My ego undefended and following the storyline was not prepared for how I would relate to what was happening on-screen, and I waded too deep into the lines. What uncorked me was the hope Eilis had in creating a life with Tony, her beau. He loved her and was committed to a life with her, and they each had dreams that intertwined. I have been loved liked that, and I used to believe in happily ever after. I was committed despite the imperfections of my former relationship. I think the big secret to staying in a long-term relationship is wanting to.
I now have a dilemma. How do I become truly uncommitted, emotionally untangled and start over? Or maybe a better way to phrase my question is how do I commit to myself? As a few days went by after seeing Brooklyn, I was able to catch what I had not seen while watching it. Eilis had two really great options, but she lost something dear to her in each choice. Neither was better, both scenarios offered love and individual development. She was at a crossroad and had to pick: stay with the familiar, literally, and continue to live in her homeland, or return to the U. S. and pursue a life with a man she loved and see what unfolded. She could not live in both places.
I don’t have a choice to go back to my family, to my partnership. I can have aspects and parts of it, but not the whole. And I am a whole person. My other option, really, my only option, is to be open to what will unfold now. There are losses and gains in the life that is no longer mine, as well as the life I am currently creating. A year and three months into breaking up I thought I was further along in my grief of letting go, but I still have work to do.
I went up to Blowing Rock right after Christmas and went for a hike. I had mapped out in my mind the route I would take. As I was walking up from Bass Lake to the Moses Cone Manor, I saw this trail off to the left that I’d never noticed, despite hiking on this carriage road many times. I was curious. I had to climb over a fence and it was muddy, two things that would normally deter me, especially the muddiness. I checked in with myself and I did not sense that I was risking too much going off trail. I told myself I would turn around and go back to the known route if at any point the path ahead of me was not obvious.
For the first 15 minutes of the hike, I was enjoying the sense of adventure. It was challenging to cross over small streams and the birds were my constant companions. I thought I was going to have to turn back at one point because a large tree had long since fallen across the trail and brought several rhododendron with it, now happily growing right on the path. However, there were wide enough gaps that I was able to maneuver through and I could see the other side of the trail through the leaves. At this point in the hike, I committed to walking through to the next trail instead of retracing my steps and having the option of returning to the original path I had been on.
I was confident that the trail I was on would eventually connect with the carriage road on the northwest side of the park, but I started to get anxious. Maybe because I’d removed the safety net of turning back or maybe because I’d been hiking for over 30 minutes and thought I would have reached the larger road by then. I was straining and longing to hear a human voice, a sign that I was not lost. I reassured myself with each step what I knew to be true and that was that I would eventually run into a larger trail. Sure enough, within five minutes, I saw a small pond I have sat by several times before and knew that I was about to be connected back to the lake.
As I continue down a new path in my life, it helps to normalize that I am at times anxious, afraid and uncomfortable. Yet there are many familiar components that anchor and reassure me, and it is also exciting to wonder about what is up ahead. I find my best life is a mixture of it all, creating the most out of where I am right now.
E. M. Foster, a novelist who was born in 1879, said it best, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”